Raymond K. Mason, one of the founders of the...

By KENNETH A. SOO  |  May 23, 1984
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JACKSONVLLE, Fla. -- Raymond K. Mason, one of the founders of the Charter Co., will step down as president and chief executive officer of the financially strapped oil and insurance conglomerate, it was reported Wednesday.

The Florida Times-Union, quoting Mason's wife, Minerva, said her husband would step down as president and chief executive officer Wednesday but would continue as the Charter chairman.

Mrs. Mason said she believes Alexander P. Zechella, 63, executive vice president of Charter and chairman of the board of directors of Charter Oil Co., would assume Mason's role as president and chief executive officer.

Charter spokesmen refused comment on the changes.

Mason, 57, was first elected president of Charter in 1963 when the company was created. He assumed the position in July 1982 after a helicopter crash in Ireland killed four key Charter executives, including then-president Jack T. Donnell.

The $1.1 billion Jacksonville-based oil and insurance conglomerate saod it has reached an agreement in principle to sell its insurance subsidiaries to a Canadian firm owned by the Belzburg family.

Charter officials said Tuesday the deal between itself and First City Financial Corp. Ltd. of Vancouver has the blessing of a group of banks that hold a security interest in the stock of its life insurance companies.

In the agreement, First City Financial would acquire all the capital stock of Charter Security Life, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Charter. No further terms were disclosed.

Charter and 43 of its subsidiaries filed for protection from its creditors under U.S. bankruptcy statues April 20. Even before the bankruptcy filing, the company was looking for a buyer for Charter Security Life Insurance Companies to raise capital for its cash-strapped oil operations. The insurance companies were not covered in the bankruptcy court filing.

Charter hopes to get $150 million from its insurance companies to pay off its creditors. That is well below the book value of $236 million attributed to the subsidiaries at the end of last year.

'Both The Charter Co. and First City Financial stated that because the agreement was preliminary it was inappropriate to disclose the terms,' a Charter news release said.

J. Dix Bruce, chairman of Charter Security Life Insurance Companies, said the agreement with First City Financial would leave all of the companies' present policies intact.

'The association of CSL with First City Financial should enable policyholders of CSL to be secure regarding their CSL annuities,' Dix said in the news release.

Dix said the proposal 'should remove any uncertainty regarding CSL which may exist in the marketplace.

'The transaction provides CSL with an extremely strong parent,both financially nd in terms of related expertise,' he said.

The First Financial Corp. is the main investment arm of the Belzburg family of Canada.

A public company, it is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange with assets in excess of $3 billion Canadian dollars. Its holdings include financial services, real estate and investment firms active in Canada and the United States.

First City Trust Co. is Canada's seventh largest trust firm.

At the end of 1983, Charter Chairman Raymond Mason reported Charter had revenues of $5.5 billion and assets of $1.8 billion, ranking it 61st on the Fortune 500 list. It is Florida's largest corporation.

In his heyday in 1979, Charter was taking in more than $1 million a day from its oil refinery in the Bahamas.

Industry analysts said Charter's demise this year was inevitable as they watched cash flow out faster than it flowed into its oil companies. Charter's stock plunged from $50 in 1979 to about $3.50 in March.

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